Person of the Week: Irina Slavina

Week-ending 9 October 2020

RFE/RL, Tuesday, 6 October 2020: Hundreds of friends, relatives, and colleagues have bid farewell to Russian journalist Irina Slavina, who died after setting herself on fire in an apparent reaction to investigators trying to tie her to an opposition group. Gleb Nikitin, the governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, attended a ceremony honoring the chief editor of the Koza Press news website after vowing to do everything to find the cause of the tragedy. Before setting herself on fire in front of the city police headquarters on October 2, Slavina wrote on Facebook, “Blame Russian Federation for my death.” A day earlier, she wrote on Facebook that a group of law enforcement officers searched her apartment, trying to find evidence linking her with the opposition Open Russia group and confiscated her computers and mobile phones.

Meduza, Tuesday, 6 October 2020: The independent Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union is demanding that Russia’s federal-level police officials, investigators, and prosecutors investigate the circumstances surrounding the self-immolation of Nizhny Novgorod journalist Irina Slavina and punish those responsible for inciting her to suicide. The union released a statement underscoring that the case ought to be investigated by the federal branches of the Interior Ministry, Investigative Committee, and Prosecutor’s Office, and not by investigative agencies in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. “We are convinced that the reason for Irina’s suicide was the continuous persecution and pressure on the journalist by government security structures,” the statement says.

Human Rights Watch, Monday, 5 October 2020: Journalist and publisher Irina Slavina (Murakhtayeva) died after setting herself on fire on October 2, a day after a police raid on her apartment and following years of harassment by Russian authorities and others. Slavina ran Koza Press, an independent online outlet. Just before killing herself in front of the Interior Ministry building in Nizhny Novgorod, she posted on Facebook: “Blame the Russian Federation for my death.”  On October 1, Slavina described in her post how police raided her apartment at 6 a.m. that day, and confiscated “everything they found” – USB sticks, laptops, cell phones, and her notes. After the search, authorities interrogated Slavina as a witness in a criminal case against a local entrepreneur Mikhail Iosilevich for his alleged involvement with an “undesirable organization.” The organization in question, Open Russia, is a public movement loosely affiliated with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and political rival to President Vladimir Putin, currently living in London.

The Moscow Times, Thursday, 8 October 2020: An elderly man wearing a “Happy Birthday Mr. President” sign set himself on fire on a crowded street in central St. Petersburg on President Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday Wednesday, media reported. The unnamed 71-year-old businessman was hospitalized in serious condition after his self-immolation witnessed by dozens of passersby outside a shopping mall. The outlet said the victim suffered first- and second-degree burns to 45% of his body surface. Eyewitnesses described hearing him scream out “something about President Putin’s birthday and a gift” before committing the act, the Megapolis news website reported.  Videos later showed a half-burnt sign reading “…Birthday Mr. President” next to the man writhing in pain surrounded by police and passersby. According to the news site, the victim has operated a commercial real estate firm located near the site of his self-immolation for nearly 20 years. 

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